Businesses are enamored with “metrics”.  Management wants to measure and graph everything possible. It’s fun to look at colorful graphs and shoot at performance shortfalls at business meetings. Johnson, it looks like your sales aren’t trending in the right direction! Smith, your time per call is getting out of hand! Jones, your expense 46 category is higher than budget, what’s your plan?

Management by bullets. I suppose, if the boss is blind reports must be presented in braille.

Management by bullets. Okay, I concede the point that it is important to be aware of detail. Managers must know what is happening. So stipulated. Keep records.

Management by bullets. But some data are data more important than other data. If Joe is your best salesman, do you need to know Joe’s average number of sales calls per week and average time per call? Do you want to waste Joe’s productive time keeping those records for you?

Management by bullets. And what if Christine is your second best salesperson? And what if Christine makes only half as many sales calls per week as Joe? Should she be making more sales calls to “catch” Joe?

Management by bullets. Christine might be a better salesperson than Joe. She is just barely second to Joe and yet makes half the calls. Maybe Joe is doing something wrong. Maybe.

Management by bullets. Maybe measuring every possible activity is giving you a distorted picture because, with all those pretty charts in front of you, you falsely think you understand what’s happening at your business.

Management by bullets. Give anyone a pile of data and they will look only there to solve a problem. It’s natural. You gave me two thousand pages of data because you think the answer is in this data. So, I must now analyze all this data. Then I will make a report based on my conclusions gathered from the data you gave me. We can add my report, my charts and graphs to the data you gave me. I’ll make more data from your data!

Management by bullets. An action plan will be developed from the conclusions reached by analyzing all the data. Some things may get a little better. Some won’t. Most change, good or bad, will happen by chance but the data and the action plan will get the credit or blame. Inside, everyone knows we just got lucky. Or we got slammed.

Management by bullets. It’s a very expensive process. Think about how much time is wasted pleasing the boss with pretty graphs. Think about how much thought resource goes toward making the boss happy instead of making the business better.

Management by bullets.

Chris Reich